Month: December 2014

2 Easy Ways to Start Tracking Social Media with Google Analytics

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By now, even the smallest of small businesses know that an active social media presence is necessary to appeal to web savvy customers in the digital age. But for many, the strategic thinking ends there. The built-in analytics/insights that come with most social platforms really don’t help the problem, since they’re typically not results-oriented enough to drive strategy.

social marketing

That’s where Google Analytics can help. The versatility and customization available through this great (and free!) set of tools is well worth the effort of learning how to use them. And if you’re already using Google Analytics for your website analytics, it’s a simple step to extend that to social media platforms.

The major flaw in almost all Insights that come bundled within a social media platform is the lack of customization. Think about your Facebook Insights dashboard:

Google Analytics comparison

It's very big picture: there’s no way to quantify specific content marketing efforts, to follow clicks through to their end result, or to even adjust the layout of your Insights so they fit the data you’re interested in. Facebook Insights (and Pinterest Analytics, Twitter Analytics, etc.) are only interested in the kind of results you can achieve within the platform, like post views, shares, clicks, likes, retweets, repins, and comments. But you’re running a business, not a social media extravaganza. You need to be able to quantify results beyond all that, to determine what types of content and marketing efforts work best for your bottom line.

1.     Track social media visitors using customized URLs.

You’ve probably seen these types of long, complicated URLs before – they often have the name of the post or website included, and then a lot of garbled text and symbols at the end. These are called UTM parameters, and they allow you to send data back to your Google Analytics whenever someone uses that specific link to reach your page, maybe by clicking on a link in your Facebook post or tweet. Create your own trackable URL with Google’s easy to use URL Builder.

Related Class: Introduction to Web Analytics

There are many advantages to keeping track of clicks through UTM parameters rather than through the Insights/Analytics that come with each social channel. Google Analytics will give you one easy place to compare clicks across all your platforms, so you can see which types of content or offers perform best on which of your platforms. This makes it easier to think strategically about content, instead of blanketing all off your social channels with the same posts. You can also use UTM parameters to track things like sponsored posts, advertising campaigns, etc., so it will be clear which ad keywords or images are performing best for you.

2.     Set goals to get results-driven data.

When Facebook Insights or Twitter Analytics shows me that several people clicked on a link to a landing page that I posted/tweeted, I’m glad to hear it. But it’s not exactly data you can take back to the CEO or sales team to show your success in social media. Using Google Analytics to set goals will help you keep track of the behavior of social media users once they get onto your site, and can give you much more detailed, actionable data than you’ll get from social media insights alone.

Related Class: How to Measure Social ROI

Since you create your own goals in Google Analytics, you’ll be able to identify exactly the behaviors you’re interested in. For example, if I wanted to test the success of a blog post, I could set a duration goal to monitor when visitors stay on the page for over 45 seconds or 1 minute. Or if the blog post drives readers with a CTA like downloading an eBook or reading more on another page, I can set a destination goal for when they click on the link and land on that specific page. If your interest is in specific actions (signing up for the mailing list, downloading a product guide, playing a video) you can create event goals associated with those actions.

social tracking

If you’re already using Google Analytics, I don’t need to tell you that there are many, many more ways to use this free service to track your efforts and refine your strategy. From A/B testing ad buys to focusing the content you share, these tools are more specific, customizable and ultimately useful than the built-in insights you get from Facebook and other platforms. Use both together to get a big picture and close up look at your social media efforts and their results.

Interested in more ways to track social media with data? Check out this class, Measuring the Value of Social Media Using Simple Analytics, to learn about best practices for integrating Google Analytics with your social media channels.

 


The Freemium Model: What’s All the Buzz About?

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Freemium isn't new to 2014, but it certainly is a buzzword this year. This model of doing business shows up a lot in the world of phone apps and online games, but it's grown into a much wider trend. And for good reason - it's smart marketing to give potential customers a taste of what you have to offer for free.

freemium services

I'm a big believer in freebies and samples in general – read my blog about using freebies for lead generation for a primer. That said, the freemium model isn't without its flaws, and it certainly won't work for everyone. There are users who will dislike freemium services, and many, many more who will use the free part of the service forever without contributing a dime of their own funds to your bottom line. But there are also those hesitant leads who will try out a free service and eventually convert to paying customers, and they're worth some effort.

The Freemium Model

There are many different types of freemium business models. The essence behind all of them is that users will get some level of service or content for free, but have the option to get a higher level of service or better content if they pay.

Related Class: Roadmap to Mobile Marketing: App and Web Strategy

In some popular smartphone games (I personally play a lot of Sudoku), you get the full game but have to put up with ads unless you upgrade to a premium version for ad-free play. Other games allow you to pay for a bonus within the game, like more game lives or virtual goods. This model was thoroughly lambasted on a recent episode of South Park, where players of a Terrance and Phillip mobile game can buy “Canadough” to advance in the game.

But long before we all got addicted to Candy Crush, online businesses were using a similar technique. I am a Spotify success story: I used their free services for months before I got sick of the ads and decided I could afford it. I would never have signed up for a subscription music streaming service normally, but I had come to depend on the free service and it was an easy step up from there.

In both the B2C and B2B worlds, many well-established businesses rely on freemium services to draw in paying customers – Dropbox, LinkedIn, even Google and Apple’s cloud storage follows this model.

The Benefits

I’m going to keep this brief since I think the advantages of freemium services are obvious: it’s an easy way to turn leads into paying customers, since they can try out your services. Because you’re offering them a free service (and not asking for a credit card), you won’t have to do as much marketing and nurturing to take new leads from curiosity to active participation. And even those people who use your service and never pay will likely be telling their friends and co-workers about your business.

The Trouble Spots

Obviously the primary issue with the freemium model is that it simply cannot be stretched to fit most types of businesses. Companies that offer services rather than products are a better natural fit for the model, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring a freemium aspect to your eCommerce site. An example that works for many online retailers is the Amazon Prime model – every day users have full use of your store and access to your products, but those who subscribe the premium service get perks like free shipping, access to exclusive services, discounts, etc.

Related Class: Marketing Automation Strategy for Full Lifecycle Management

Another natural hazard when offering freemium services is the annoyance factor. Some users will be frustrated with limited features, ads, prompts to upgrade, paywalls, etc. They’ll bail on your service without ever converting to a subscription. There was a significant backlash when the New York Times created a paywall that limits non-subscribers to 10 articles a month, though this is paying off well for the company. My local paper gets angry comments and tweets every day from users who are frustrated with the paywall.

It’s not something to be overlooked; you should weigh carefully the impact that setting up a freemium service will have on your brand as a whole. Is it worth offering freemium features if you’ll tick off current loyal customers? Is the model compatible with your brand’s image and ethos?

The Balance

They key to the above questions is really about getting your balance right – what’s free and what’s not. If you offer too much for free, your conversion rate will be abysmal; if you offer too little, you’ll frustrate users who will never truly commit to your service. The below chart shows how some top businesses strike this balance; it’s from a great Harvard Business Review piece on freemium in practical terms.

Freemium services chart

Getting pricing right is also key to this equation, and it depends on the perks you’re offering for upgraded users. Remember that premium subscriptions are not your sole source of revenue for the service, so you shouldn’t have to charge steep prices. Ideally you’ll have some sort of ad revenue tied to non-subscription users, to offset their service costs. And then there’s this startling fact: that Harvard Business Review study I mentioned above found that free users are generally worth 15-25% as much as paying subscribers, because of the value they generate in referrals. That’s great marketing and smart business!

So can freemium work for your specific business? That’s something that won’t be answered here, but you should do your homework, study your options and decide for yourself. This isn’t a fluke trend or just the next big thing; it’s a growing market that can work for many smart companies who are willing to have a flexible approach.

Want to learn more about what you can do to help your business thrive online? Check out this class, Adapt or Die: 5 Key Digital Strategies, from Kent Lewis. You'll learn how to optimize everything from your general strategy to your YouTube presence.

 


Making Word of Mouth Work for You: How to Encourage Referrals

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You work hard for new leads – spending time, energy and plenty of advertising and marketing dollars to reach them. But as you probably know from frustrating experience, most of the people you reach with marketing, advertising or social media posts will not become leads, and only a tiny percentage of those who do come in for a closer look will actually end up contributing to your sales numbers. Generally, this is how marketing works, whether it’s inbound or outbound.

word of mouth

But there is one way to reach new prospective customers that has a much, much higher rate of success, and for many businesses it’s free: word of mouth. Getting a current customer to refer brand new customers to your business is a no-brainer, really.

Why Referrals Matter

The real benefit of referrals is two-fold: increased effectiveness and decreased costs, compared to traditional marketing or advertising. If a customer is thrilled with your products or services, they may turn to friends, family members, and co-workers and sing your praises. This personal recommendation costs you nothing, but is already exponentially more effective than any inbound or outbound marketing you might have in place. Why?

Related Class: Brand Advocate Marketing Playbook

There have been many, many studies done to illustrate the efficacy of word of mouth recommendations; check out Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising Report for just one good example. They all come up with the same bottom line. The average person is a lot more likely to trust a referral or recommendation from someone they know, than from advertising or marketing. The person recommending typically has personal experience with the brand, business or service they’re speaking about, and we love to trust people who have tried it out first! We’re also more likely to trust personal recommendations when they come from a person with nothing to gain from the discussion. Think about it: your next-door neighbor vs. the car salesman. Who would you trust more?

How to Get Customers Talking

There are two difficulties here: first, that customers may use your service and not ever think to discuss it with others, and second, that they may intend to recommend your service but never actually follow through.

Related Class: Engaging Boomers and Seniors in Online WOM

This was highlighted in a Harvard Business Review study about the true value of word of mouth marketing. At two different businesses, customers polled for the study were asked about recommending the service. 68% from the first business, and 81% at the second business said they thought they would recommend the company to others. However, only about 30% of customers for both businesses actually got around to recommending. And since not all of those people who hear a recommendation will follow through and make a purchase, you’re whittling down those numbers pretty fast.

So what’s the trick? Well, there are two things you can do to really encourage new referrals, and hopefully the first is something you’re already doing. It’s simple: you need to provide a truly great service or product, with truly top-notch customer service. Your customers are likely to recommend you to others if they are head-over-heels in love with your product or service, or if the process of doing business with you was memorable in some way – whether it’s a quick and easy quote process, fast picking and shipping, or a problem they had with their order that your customer service agent quickly solved.

Incentivize Referrals

The other way to really boost referrals is to incentivize them for both parties. In my last blog, I talked about the opportunity you have, after a customer first purchases, to follow up and ask about their experience. If they have positive feedback about the experience or the product, that’s a great chance to continue the conversation and ask for a referral. Asking is already better than nothing, and they might just do it.

But how to increase the odds? That’s where an incentive comes in. If you offer an incentive to your customer (a credit toward their next order, free shipping, etc.), you give them a reason to remember your business and their experience. And if you want to increase the odds of those new referrals actually coming in to your store or visiting your webshop, offer them an incentive as well! Whether it’s 10% off their first order, free shipping, or a BOGO freebie, you’re making a friendly gesture that will welcome new referrals to follow through and make a purchase.

referral

If you’re hesitating, remember that the discount or credit is still likely to be less than you’d pay to generate brand new leads not associated with your current customers. That’s the beauty of referrals – they pay off financially in two ways (increased sales for less advertising cost), and open you up to even more referrals from happy customers!

Want to learn more about turning customers into advocates of your products or services? Social media is a critical tool. Check out this class, Social Engagement for WOM Supremacy, to find out about communicating with current customers in a way that will encourage them to pass your brand along to their friends.

 


Making the Most of a First Time Buyer

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It’s great news – a new customer slid all the way down your sales funnel, and finally made a purchase! Don’t leave it there. The fact that you have a new customer means that you’re doing some things right, like lead generation and nurturing. Now you have a chance to convince your new buyer that there’s more to this than a one night stand! Help them see the growing relationship, and you’ll have the makings of a loyal, repeat customer.

first time buyer

My last blog was about missed opportunities for lead nurturing in eCommerce; this one is about an opportunity that many businesses miss, once that lead has become a paying customer.

Cost Effective Conversions

We all know that new leads are pricey, and require a lot of encouragement. This often means you have to spend big on ad buys and social media boosting, or offer discounts and special offers that cut into your profit margins majorly.

With first time buyers, you have a group of targets that are already as qualified as leads can be, clearly interested in your products or services, and obviously a part of your market. Considering this, it’s no surprise that reaching them is much cheaper than reaching new leads, since you’re not casting a wide net that includes hundreds or thousands of uninterested people. You also have that one key thing – contact details!

The Follow-Up Email

Ecommerce businesses have certainly perfected the art of the confirmation email, but far too many are just leaving it at that. Do you follow up with your first time customers to see what their experience was like? It may seem like a lot of work, but you can automate a big portion of this process once you’ve got it down to a science that works for you and your customers.

I’ve received follow-up emails recommending similar products to me, based on what I purchased. That’s certainly better than no follow-up email at all, but it can feel a little mercenary. Remember, this new customer is still learning about your brand, figuring out what you do and how it feels to do business with you. A wise marketer once told me that customers aren’t just buying a product, they’re buying into an experience – and they want it to be a good one. What kind of experience are you giving them? Will they want to come back?

Related Class: Email Copywriting and Content Essentials

Plan to check in with your first time buyers, either by email or phone call, a few days after their order would likely have arrived (if it’s a physical product) or a week after they’ve used your services, whether you’re a provider of online services (like us here at OMI!) or face-to-face services in the real world. Think carefully about setting the right tone in your email, because you want this to generate some majorly positive vibes.

Ask the Right Questions

The content of your email should be designed to do two things: gather more information, and cultivate a real relationship between the new customer and your business. This means you have to sound like you actually care about their answers to your questions! I often get emails from Target.com, asking me to review a product I bought. This does NOT make me think that Target cares about whether I’m actually happy with my purchase – it makes me think that Target wants some reviews so they can sell more boots like the ones I bought! I see through you, Target.

When you follow up with customers, make sure they know that you care. Ask if they’re happy with their purchase, the buying process, shipping times, etc., and tailor your content to sound personal to their purchase and their experience (e.g. asking about the quality of the boots they bought, vs. asking about the quality of the “product” they bought). Make sure it’s clear that you’re happy to help if anything isn’t up to snuff, but that you want to hear if it is, too!

Small and medium-sized businesses win major points if the email comes from a specific person (whether it’s Angie the Owner or Alex the Customer Service Agent) and a specific email address, instead of a general or ‘info’ email address. This helps the customer feel like they have a real contact at the company, if they have any questions or problems at this point or further on down the line.

Request a Review – the Right Way

As noted above, I’m not a fan of the generic review-request email. However, I do think there are ways to go about encouraging reviews of your products or services that can really make it a win-win-win situation: the customer feels like they’ve been heard, you get valuable feedback, and hesitant shoppers will have reviews to help make their decision.

An email requesting a review should make it clear that you’re genuinely interested in their opinion on the purchase – was it what they expected? Would they buy it again? Again, a personal email directly from a representative, tailored to the purchase, will go a long ways toward making this email feel more genuine. If your site is a bit bare when it comes to reviews, whether it’s because you have a new webshop, a new product, or few review-ready customers, that’s definitely something you want to fix, fast. Incentivize the review process for first time buyers by offering a discount voucher or free shipping on their next order.

email to first time buyer

Loyal customers are obviously a valuable commodity since they return and purchase again and again, but their value in terms of brand advocacy can be just as important. Don’t gloss over the first purchase – take this chance to create a relationship that can work well for both of you!

Looking to learn more about marketing through the entire buying process? Check out this class, Content is Opportunity: Developing Content for Every Stage in the Buying Cycle, to find out about tailoring your message for maximum impact.

 


5 Keys to Planning Content for Mobile Audiences

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Mobile is no longer the future of marketing – it’s the present. For marketers, mobile is the “last mile” of effectively connecting with audiences. Pew Research points out that nearly 60% of the U.S. adult population now owns a smartphone and almost half own a tablet. For many people, mobile content is their most common form of consumption. That doesn’t, however, mean that marketers are good at creating content that works well in the mobile environment.

mobile

We’re in the mode of creating large amounts of content. But we might be better off if we generated less and thought more about how to better extend it through the channels we use. One of those primary channels should be mobile. Here’s where to start your plan to make content work for the mobile environment:

1.  Think before you shrink.

Look at your content through a mobile lens. Not everything will work at a small scale, and many things will work differently. Don’t just take other content and format it for a smaller screen. Start with the lowest common denominator of what people are looking for and how they’ll interact, and plan from there.

2.  Know your audience’s mobile habits.

In order to know your customers’ habits, you have to know your customers’ needs, and how mobile fits into the bigger picture. Consider why and how your audience will interact with your mobile content. If they’re in the buying mode and looking for information, how do you answer their critical questions at each stage of the discovery and decision cycle? Or can you? What mobile device are they using? Think about the purpose of your content and how people engage with it on different mobile devices.

Related Class: Targeting Millennials on Social & Mobile

3.  Audience need dictates content length.

There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all for the length of content on mobile devices. What works depends on what your audience needs – what are your industry, subject and context? Users will definitely engage with long-form content on a mobile device if it will help them solve a problem on the spot. Or if it’s more along the lines of pure education, does it make sense to break it up into smaller chunks? That may help busy people get “snacks” of content as they have smaller chunks of time here and there. Regardless of length, remember that quality matters most in helping boost your search results.

4.  Hone in on design.

Visuals should be minimal yet still quick and easy to convey your message. There’s a lot of content formatted in columns on website and downloads that won’t make any sense for a mobile device. Make it easy for people to scan all of your content and read what matters most in a mobile moment. Don’t use long, detailed forms – they’re tedious and you’ll lose people when they want to engage the most. Make sure that your content is “tappable” and easy to share. When people search, they’ll choose another result if yours isn’t mobile friendly.

5.  Understand conversion and measurement.

When people search for answers on their mobile devices, most are ready to take action. In fact, iAcquire notes that 70% of mobile searches lead to action on websites within one hour. For consumers, mobile is key to making a decision in the moment. On the other hand, no one’s going to buy a big-ticket B2B item on a mobile device. So conversion for those buyers on mobile doesn’t have the same path to purchase as it does for consumers. You need to think differently – how easy it is for them to share content, download a white paper, or sign up for a newsletter? How do you measure not only the performance of mobile content, but what action it prompts and the ultimate outcome?

mobile

Mobile gives companies a real-time, immediate way to reach audiences – but they have to be willing to stay relevant in this world. The key lies in understanding the role that mobile plays in driving greater engagement for other activities and channels, and then being able to create the right experience through mobile devices.

Interested in learning more about refining your mobile strategy? Check out this class, Mobile Web and Responsive Design Fundamentals, to hear about best practices in the world of mobile web design.